Senior Experience to be implemented in 2012

Katy Hillbo

For many seniors, the ambiguity of life after college is a frightening prospect. While it can be exciting to finally face the ‘real world’ and leave the shelter of the Lawrence Bubble, uncertainty, bills and the job hunt are daunting aspects of life after college. To better prepare Lawrentians for this next step, the university is implementing a new program called the Senior Experience. The Senior Experience — which will formally be put into effect starting with the graduating class of 2012 — is a program that will allow seniors to focus their study on a personalized subject that relates to their major.

Each department will determine what the Senior Experience will entail for majors within that department, so it could take the form of a paper, a course, a recital, a project, or any number of options. All students will be required to complete the Senior Experience prior to graduation.

Similar to capstone programs at universities such as the College of Wooster, Pomona College and Bard College, the Senior Experience is designed to be a culmination of what students have learned at Lawrence.

However, as Faculty Associate to the President Dr. Kim said, the Senior Experience is different from a capstone program in that it also serves as a way to help students face the many changes that are in store for them.

“College graduates today face a rapidly changing society,” Kim said. “The Senior Experience brings focus to the senior year and helps students make the transition from Lawrence into life after college.”

The program is parallel to the Freshman Studies courses that all incoming freshmen are required to take at Lawrence. Just as Freshman Studies is meant to help students make the transition from high school to college, the Senior Experience is meant to help students as they enter the next stage of life and give them knowledge that will continue the ‘lifelong learning’ that the faculty at Lawrence strive to bestow upon students.

However, the Senior Experience emphasizes a more focused project as opposed to the more general study that Freshmen Studies presents. The goal is to have a program that enhances and is supported by the study that students have completed at Lawrence.

Burrows hopes that the projects will “grow out of the students’ interests,” making them more enjoyable and meaningful for students.

Burrows feels that the Senior Experience is “tailored to the strengths of Lawrence and its students,” and that “it will give students the opportunity to create projects instead of simply [coming] to understand somebody else’s [work].”

Some departments already require senior projects that look much like the kinds of projects in the Senior Experience. Taking cues from these departments and other universities, some faculty members decided that all Lawrence students could benefit from a program like the Senior Experience.

A committee was formed to discuss the issue and the committee held open meetings. After a proposal and an application was made to the faculty board, the faculty voted in favor of the program.

Another factor that prompted the adoption of the new program was the Spellings Report, a report released in 2005 after Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings commissioned a committee to offer suggestions for solving problems with higher education.

As Dr. Kim noted, “[The Spellings Report] holds higher education [institutions] responsible for how their students do after college.” The report emphasizes the importance of giving students the proper tools to be productive and successful after they graduate as well as while they are at those institutions.

While graduating from college can be a big change, the Senior Experience is being implemented in the hopes that it will help to make the transition into life after college a little easier.

By providing students with an opportunity to focus their study, the people who are involved with integrating the Senior Experience into the curriculum hope to give students the tools to become self-sufficient, productive members of society.